Texas wildfires have burned hundreds of thousands of acres just in the past week, as flames ring entire lakes, jump firebreaks, and threaten towns and cities, including Dallas-Fort Worth.
Thousands of firefighters, smoke jumpers, and bulldozer drivers struggled Wednesday to contain a historic Texas wildfire season, as more blazes cropped up and dozens of large wildland fires burned out of control throughout the state.
"One thing you've got to accept when you've got 45-mile-an-hour winds with humidity in the single digits and dry fuels, you're not going to stop that fire," says Marq Webb, a spokesman for the Texas Forest Service. "It's kind of like eating an elephant: You take one bite at a time."
In the past week, a swath of Texas nearly the size of Rhode island has burned as flames as high as 40 feet lap up the landscape, adding to the almost 2 million acres total that have ignited since the wildfire season began in December.
Fires have prompted evacuations in several towns, including along Possum Kingdom Lake near Fort Worth, where at one point the fire ringed nearly the entire shore of the 17,000-acre waterway. According to Gov. Rick Perry, the state has seen nearly 8,000 fires since December, with more than 250 homes destroyed or damaged.
Near Dallas, four separate fires merged Tuesday, forcing the evacuation of three towns west of the metro area. In many cases, residents are leaving their sprinkler systems on as they depart, hoping irrigation will protect their homes.
Historically dry weather, a large amount of dry grass and scrub (which cropped up after hurricane Alex soaked the state last August), and seasonal high winds have resulted in fires in 252 of Texas's 254 counties. The entire state is now painted red on fire warning maps, with fires with names such as East Sidwynicks, Cannon Fire Complex, Frying Pan Ranch, and Rockhouse dotting the response maps, says Mr. Webb.